New York Times increases readership with holiday discount subscription campaigns

By Tom Kulaga

Holiday weekends have long been known for the shopping excitement — and sometimes frenzy — that traditionally accompanies them.

For several years now, The New York Times has sought to capitalise on these opportunities by custom designing unique promotions and marketing approaches created to drive incremental subscription orders.

The New York Times began promoting holiday sales on Cyber Monday 2011 and continued throughout 2012.

Encouraged by the results, the company extended these efforts even further in 2013, promoting sales during six key holiday sales periods: Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and December holidays. The efforts continue in 2014.

The offer for the holiday sales throughout the year is usually 50% off 16 weeks on a digital or home delivery subscription, with a special offer of 50% off 26 weeks reserved for the pivotal Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday.

These holiday sales are promoted across the majority of The Times’ marketing channels — including e-mail, internal display, external display, paid search, print, DRTV, radio, and social media —and feature a consistent marketing message and creative across all channels for the entire period of the sale.

To ensure that each sale is better than the last, The Times measures the more than 160 different assets individually to maximise performance of each and every one of the channels. 

While the entire campaign promotes urgency, as the typical sale is only four to six days long, The Times also develops “last chance” creative for the final day of the campaigns that emphasises the end date and urgency around the sale. 

This last chance creative works exceptionally well, as it generates a significant lift over the non-last chance days.

Recently, the team has begun to experiment with “Sale Extended” messaging, which not only extends the sale one day, but also generates a second, high-performing “last chance” opportunity.

Early results are promising. 

As The Times continues to expand its digital offerings — such as the recently launched “Top Stories” and “NYT Opinion,” and the soon to be launched “NYT Cooking” — the company has adjusted its sale tactics and pricing to optimise product selection for its readers, driving incremental orders with little cannibalisation of existing products.

This year, “Top Stories” was added to the product mix for Memorial Day, and the new “NYT Opinion” app was included in the 2014 Independence Day Sale.

The marketing team has had a great deal of success building short-term, high-urgency subscription sales around holiday weekends with consistently strong digital orders since inception.

What’s more, customers who subscribe through these holiday sales have proven to be among The New York Times’ strongest-retaining customers.

About Tom Kulaga

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